At the age of 31, Lionel Messi amazingly continues to reach staggering new heights in his illustrious career. In what should be the beginning of his twilight, the records continue to tumble and heads continue to turn.
Yet, for all his brilliance, Messi still has his doubters.
These usually manifest themselves in the dark pits of internet comment sections, with most of them being Manchester United, Real Madrid or Juventus fans. This core allege that it is not Lionel Messi, but Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the best player in the world, and they’re coming up with increasingly absurd theories to prove it.
Each myth is more ridiculous than the last, so we set about debunking each and every one of them.
Messi can’t do it for Argentina
This argument has been doing the rounds for a while and has been gaining momentum in recent weeks. It is extremely popular with the brand of football fans who endorse messages without thinking simply because they sound good.
The simple fact of the matter is that Messi is Argentina’s top goalscorer of all time. His 65 goals may seem comparatively low when judged against his 600 club goals, but that is the nature of international football. The argument that he can’t perform on the international stage is completely ridiculous.
A golden ball at the 2014 World Cup may have been disputed by those who felt James Rodriguez deserved the gong, but there is no arguing that Messi was among the best three players in Brazil.
Four successive man of the match awards were a major factor in Argentina’s participation in the World Cup final, and but for Gonzalo Higuain’s inability to score when it matters, Messi would have a winners’ medal in his pocket.
However, a lack of international award is not an indicator of how good a players’ career has been. By that logic, Shkodran Mustafi is better than Lionel Messi by virtue of the fact that he has a World Cup winners’ medal and Messi does not.
Similarly, the argument that Ronaldo is a better player because of his Euro 2016 triumph is simply ludicrous. Ronaldo’s involvement in Portugal’s success has been greatly overstated.
He scored against two teams on Portugal’s route to glory in France; Hungary and Wales, and if that is the basis of someone’s argument, you’re better off ignoring them.
Messi doesn’t do it on the big occasion
The premise of this myth generally alludes to Messi’s recent record in the Champions League. Failure to score in a quarter-final for five seasons added fuel to the fire that Messi couldn’t do it when it mattered most, but this is an utter falsehood.
During his quarter-final goal drought, Messi single-handedly tore Bayern Munich apart in the 2015 Champions League semi-finals. That’s not to mention his influence before that goal drought.
Champions League final goals in 2009 and 2011 were major moments in Barca’s European triumphs, while his spectacular goal against Real Madrid in the 2011 Champions League semi-final was one of the most iconic goals in the tournament’s history.
Conversely, Messi’s phenomenal record in La Liga – and its role in winning Barcelona eight titles since 2009 – has been greatly overlooked by Messi’s detractors.
Such importance has been placed on the Champions League that rudimentary things like league titles are being completely undervalued, but just ask Liverpool fans how much they would like to win the league and see how important it is.
What good is being the best team in Europe if you can’t even claim to be the best team in your country?
Messi couldn’t cut it in the Premier League
The most consistent, and frankly most ridiculous, theory is that Messi wouldn’t be the same player if he plied his trade in England.
There is genuinely no basis for this argument, considering Messi has scored 30 goals against the best England has to offer in Europe.
Always ready with a counter-argument, Messi’s doubters claim that he would not do so well without the world-class players of Barcelona around him. It’s almost like they expect Messi to join Burnley in order to prove himself.
If Messi did move to the Premier League, it would be to Manchester City as they are the only ones who could afford him, and if someone is telling you that Lionel Messi couldn’t hack it against the likes of Huddersfield Town while playing for Manchester City, just stop talking to them.
Ronaldo, on the other hand, is almost heralded as a champion of the common people for his bravery of taking on three different leagues, because joining a team who had won seven consecutive league titles was such a risky move for Ronaldo’s career.
Why is loyalty to a club something to be sneered at anyway?
In an age of players moving on every three or four years, it is refreshing to see a player stick to his roots.
In short, there is no convincing argument that can be put forward to support the case that Messi is not the best player in the world. He has been the best in the world since 2009, and has taken steps to solidify his status as the best of all time.